Dr. Cielito F. Habito, Professor of Economics at the Ateneo de Manila University on the 2nd International Conference on Agricultural and Rural Development in Southeast Asia (ARD2014) held on November 12-13, 2014 at the Makati Shangri-La Manila talked about the theme of the conference “Strengthening, Resilience, Equity and Integration in ASEAN Food and Agricultural Systems”.

He said that ARD2014 aims to provide a venue for sharing the wide and diverse knowledge pool ARD within and beyond the Southeast Asian region built on the above mentioned theme.

Resilience or sustainability of food and agricultural system is currently being tested against the challenges of rapid urbanization and social transformation, resource and environmental degradation, and heightened regional and global competition.

Equity considerations now commonly articulated in the phrase “inclusive growth” is a goal that must be pursued across countries and within countries in the region, he stressed on.

Another factor, is integration which captures the ASEAN thrust toward closer regional political and economic coordination and cooperation, most commonly seen in the impending culmination of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Six thematic areas will be addressed according to Habito:

1. Productivity empowerment, tradionally approached through technological improvement of various components of the farm production system;

2. Inclusive value chains, which considers the range of activities spanning form finance and provision of farm inputs;

3. Sustainability and poverty reduction, dealing with economic, social, and environmental sustainability of agricultural practice, while ensuring the upliftment of rural communities;

4. Food security and food safety; dealing with the physical, natural, political, institutional, social/cultural, and economic dimensions of ensuring availability and accesibility of safe and nutritious food for all;

5. Institution and government examining, the policy, regulatory, and institutional framework and its implications for the ARD system, and

6. Regional cooperation and integration situating ARD amid the impending culmination of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Knowledge gaps in the food and agriculture systems of Southeast Asia remain substantial, and working together toward greater resilience, equity and integration therein will require regular wide knowledge exchange across the region that ARD2014 aims to put to motion, Habito stressed on. (PSciJourn MegaManila)